How do you master Photoshop?  That is the question…

I receive this inquire in many different forms and fashions.  While I would like to say, “practice is how you master Photoshop.”  That is not entirely true; it goes MUCH more in-depth than that.

Before we begin,  I do not want you to think I am presumptuous in saying I am a master of Photoshop, and therefore I can make you one too.  Ideally, I would like to think anyone can become a master of anything, but I am basing that on the “10 Years or 10,000 Hours rule”. Meaning,  anyone who has worked at a trade for ten years or a cumulative total of 10,000 hours could be considered a master.

While I have been in Photoshop for nearly 22 years, I would tell you that the first 12 were far from mastery and were spent building a foundation.  I have probably spent a total of 20-25,000 hours in the program, though.  While I haven’t tabulated every hour, I have made it a point to do something in Photoshop for at least one hour per day with some days being a full workday chipping away at it.  But you know what is most exciting about that?

I still feel like a young Padawan learning the art of the Jedi. Nerd Translation:  I still feel like a passionate student, not a master by any stretch of the imagination.

So how do you Master Photoshop then?  Well, I have a whole video on it here that will help you, but here are also four strategies that you can implement today to be well on your way to Photoshop mastery.

1.  Deliberate Practice

There is nothing the brain loves more than deliberate practice.  Practice and practice alone does not lead to mastery because most times, people say they are practice when they are merely dabbling.  Deliberate Practice is a laser-focused form of training where you narrow your focus and place all of your attention on one task.  It often requires redundant routine repetition until you have a firm grasp on the foundations for that which you are practicing.  Then and only then, should you build on those foundations with more advanced tasks, otherwise your brain could dump the information before its ready to apply it to memory.

2.  Pattern Recognition

As you apply the principles of deliberate practice, you should recognize patterns.  I like to look at these as a series of if, then statements.  If I use the Hard Mix Blend Mode with a low Fill setting,  then I get increased contrast and a desirable result.  As you practice and recognize patterned behavior take notes, physical written notes.  Physical written notes help with memory recall and are quintessential to mastery.

3.  Build on the Foundations

Muscle memory is critical in any sport. They talk about it all the time when you are training to become a professional at anything.  While we don’t use many muscles while hanging out in Photoshop, there are basic foundational exercises that one must learn to develop the skills necessary to advance toward mastery.  Those basics are layers, adjustment layers, masking, blend modes, and layer styles.  These foundations are what you should be deliberately practicing and documenting the patterns you recognize as you learn.  

4.  Avoid Magic Tricks

When you are first learning Photoshop, avoid the Photoshop Magic Tricks.  These are things like sky replacements, Luminosity Masks, face swaps, and countless other compositing techniques.  Do you need to know these?  Sure, you do, as they can be beneficial in your workflow.  But there is a time, and a place to learn them and these are more advanced techniques.  At the beginning of your journey to mastery, stick to practical application and tutorials that are going to build your foundation rather than convoluted your process.


30 Days to Photoshop Mastery

This course will help you establish a path for Photoshop Mastery in just 30 days!  It’s not magic tricks or gee-whiz information in Photoshop, its practical application meets real-world examples. 

 Its a sequential build-up of the right information at the right time.

Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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